Friday, October 20, 2006

Pop quiz at the doctor's office

…At the Univ of AZ, Barry D Weiss, MD, a professor of family and community medicine, has devised a 3-minute test docs can give to assess your health literacy.

…Will you understand your diagnosis, instructions, and prescription? Will you do what the doctor says?

…The test is based on one of those food labels—this one for ice-cream. Along with the BP check, the nurse would ask you six questions about the label to see how with it you are.

….The test, dubbed Newest Vital Sign, is also available in Spanish.

…The Institute of Medicine has indicated that as many as half of the adults in America have low health literacy.

…Hey, a fifth of adults can’t read at all--much less make sense of terms like dyspnea, hyperplasia, stenosis, and “this prescription is prn.”

…A recent study showed that many people quit taking their heart medication. In some cases maybe it’s not because of side efx, but instead, because the doctor didn’t state clearly that they need to take it the rest of their life.

…The nonprofit Partnership for Clear Health Communication says that health literacy is a stronger predictor of how a patient will fare than income, age, employment status, and educational level.

…Of course, all of this confusion costs gazillions.

…It seems to HA that a couple of other steps might help, instead of slapping a piece of paper in a worried patient’s hand and asking questions about it.

…The doctor could speak English instead of Latin.

…The doctor could take 5 minutes to explain why a test might be a good idea, what he or she is looking for, instead of just sending the patient off to the lab or imaging center (or God forbid, for exploratory surgery).

…The doctor could ask the patient to recap the instructions, instead of saying, “Any
questions? “ (if he or she even says that).

…And if the patient does not speak English, the doctor could get an interpreter or one of those on-the-phone deals to run interference.

…HA is just sayin’.

…She dabbles in the medical stuff, as you know, and the system still kicks her, ass.

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